Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : December 2, 2003:
* Activists Short on GM Facts
* Scientists Must Accept Responsibility for Anti-Intellectual Attitudes
* Biotechnology Shows Promise for Europe
* Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods - Who Wins?
* Consumers Choose Biotech Sweet Corn Over Conventional Varieties
* GM Sugar Beet 'Far More Environmentally Friendly'
* Brown Award for Excellence in Genetic Resource Conservation
* New Way to Compute Prizes for Agriculture Research
* Save CGIAR From Dying
* Environmentalism or Individualism?
Activists Short on GM Facts
- Herald and Weekly Times, Dec. 3 2003
No sooner had I started reading Lochie MacSmith's letter on the problems
of GM canola in Canada (WT, Nov 19), than I realised it was another
anti-GM formula letter.
These letters are generated by activists and follow common themes. I'll
outline them, then the facts.
* Farmers lose money growing GM crops: GM canola accounts for 75 per cent
of Canada's production. Strange that such an unprofitable crop, according
to Lochie, could be so dominant. Canadian farmers are either making a buck
out of it or are really stupid.
- GM canola yields less than conventional canola: The yield potential of
GM canola is only as good as the cultivar into which the gene is put. A
new conventional canola line may out-yield an old GM line, but this
advantage is not because of being non-GM. If you modified the same new
canola line, you would get a top-yielding GM plant.
* Cross-pollination and contamination cannot be managed: Australian
studies show we can expect cross-pollination of 0-0.07 per cent.
- That represents 17.5kg per 25-tonne truck load when the allowable
standard of 1 per cent in Australia would be 250kg. This means that to
fail a GM test, you would have to mix in another 232.5kg of GM canola.
* Japan has a tolerance of 5 per cent and the EU of 0.9 per cent.
- Even if a farmer does get too much GM in his grain, there is no definite
price premium for non-GM canola, ABARE says.
* Multinationals will control the food chain
- Monsanto, for instance, does not buy canola, process it or make food
products for supermarket shelves. That's hardly control of the food chain.
* All food that contains the smallest trace of GM should be labelled
- GM food is not a poison and not one single case of illness is known from
eating it. Groups such as Greenpeace cannot produce a single piece of
evidence to support their moronic anti-GM food smear campaign.
The biggest problem with GM canola is not contamination of our land, but
the contamination of our minds by the likes of Lochie MacSmith, who fails
the tests of logic and fact.
- Gerald Feeny, St Arnaud
Scientists Must Accept Responsibility for Anti-Intellectual Attitudes by
- Margaret A. Davidson, CSA Newsletter, Dec. 2003; American Society of
Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of
America. (Reproduced in AgBioView with permission. Thanks to Wayne Parrott
for the alert.)
In a tour de force performance Sunday evening, Nov. 2, at the Adam‚s Mark
Hotel in Denver, CO, Margaret A. Davidson delivered the E.T. and Vam York
Distinguished Lectureship to more than 400 Annual Meetings attendees.
Introduced by ASA President Bob Hoeft as a challenging and provocative
speaker, Davidson immediately confronted her audience with the schism
between scientists and "regular people." She challenged scientists to
explore the role of science in society and their responsibility for
science communication in light of current challenges.
Davidson urged her listeners to focus on the transition from research to
resource management. She used the example of nonpoint source pollution to
illustrate how science dollars could be better used to protect resources
through communication at the local level about the effects of lawn
chemicals and even dogs on water quality rather than for more research in
areas such as modeling.
Pointing out the counterproductive paradigm in which scientists view
themselves as seeking truth and the media as not communicating truth,
Davidson called upon scientists to accept responsibility for
anti-intellectual attitudes by improving scientific communication. She
urged scientists to reward their great communicators--people like Carl
Sagan and Jacques Cousteau--rather than ridiculing or vilifying them.
Davidson said it was time to reward these kinds of efforts within career
paths and within the Societies. She urged attendees to create ties with
their journalism departments and the Society of Environmental
Journalists. She suggested building a bank of ideas and cultivating media
attention, but emphasized that the first step is to figure out your
message: "If you can‚t tell me what the essence of your work is in 30
seconds, you don‚t know what it is."
In the context of a society that is anti-intellectual and anti-tax and a
climate of declining enrollment and membership, Davidson urged her
audience to reach out to other organizations and disciplines. Davidson
invoked the metaphor of ecology, where systems that fail to adapt, fail.
"Why do we think our institutions are different?" Driving home her point
that scientists must accept their role in politics, Davidson concluded her
presentation with a stark projection from the General Accounting Office.
At current rates of federal expenditures and taxation, after debt
interest, defense spending, and 25% of current social service spending,
within 10 years there will be no money left for "everything we do∑To
defend science is essential."
Biotechnology Shows Promise for Europe
'Plant Biotechnology: Potential Impact for Improving Pest Management in
- Gianessi L; Sankula S; Reigner N, National Center for Food and
Agricultural Policy, http://www.ncfap.org/
According to a study published on December 1st by the National Center for
Food and Agricultural Policy (NCFAP), the cultivation of six genetically
engineered crops in Europe would lead to higher farmers' income, reduced
pesticide sprayings, as well as higher yields. The current publication is
part of a larger study which will end in June 2004 and cover 15 different
crops. The first three case studies were already published in June 2003.
The study is co-financed by the industry.
PARIS (December 1, 2003) -- Biotechnology could help control plant
diseases, weeds and insect pests, which cause European farmers to suffer
losses and use intense farming methods, resulting in more food production
at lower costs and with less use of pesticides, according to a
comprehensive study released today.
The nine case studies compiled by the National Center for Food and
Agricultural Policy (NCFAP) document that crops developed through
biotechnology can help European farmers reap an additional 8.5 billion
kilograms (19 billion pounds) of food and improve farm income over •1.6
billion, while using 14.4 million fewer kilograms (32 million pounds) of
"New technologies like biotech crops can keep farmers competitive in an
ever-changing global market," says Leonard Gianessi, program director for
NCFAP, a nonprofit, Washington, D.C.-based research organization. "The
potential impacts for Europe have not been quantified in this way before."
NCFAP released three case studies earlier this year. Today, six more were
added, totaling nine. The case studies, which include insect resistant,
herbicide tolerant, virus resistant and fungal resistant varieties, show
that crops like virus resistant stone fruit (peaches, apricots and plums)
could save the industry in certain parts of Italy, Austria, Spain, Greece
and many other growing areas while crops like herbicide tolerant wheat
could reduce pesticide use by 1.4 million kilograms.
Previous case studies show that crops like insect resistant corn,
currently planted in Spain on a small scale, have the potential to
increase yields in Europe by 1.9 billion kilograms (4.2 billion pounds).
Meanwhile, crops like biotech virus resistant tomatoes could allow
production of the San Marzano tomato to continue in the Campania region of
Italy, which is a variety of particular pride. "These case studies show
every country stands to benefit from development of the new varieties
evaluated in this study," Gianessi says.
NCFAP researchers say that France would see the greatest production
increase at 2.6 billion kilograms (5.7 billion pounds), while Italy would
see the greatest increase in income with a •474 million euro change
closely followed by France, which would see income increase by over •300
million euro. Pesticide use would also go down, with French growers seeing
the largest impact, a reduction of 3.2 million kilograms. "In these nine
cases, biotechnology provides equivalent or better control of harmful
pests at reduced costs." Gianessi said.
The release of the six case studies is the second in a series that NCFAP
will complete in the next year. The complete study will include 15 case
studies of fruits, vegetables and field crops where biotechnology
solutions to major pest problems in Europe are under development.
Specifically, the six new case studies show:
* European wheat yields are the highest in the world due to use of modern
technology including herbicides. Herbicide tolerant wheat could reduce
weed control costs by •90 million.
* Recent U.K. Farm Scale Evaluations (FSE) determined that biotech
herbicide tolerant rapeseed would improve weed control. The FSE
experiments did not estimate the impacts on weed control costs and
rapeseed yield. NCFAP estimates a yield increase of six per cent and a
cost reduction of 25 per cent.
* In Europe, recent bans of the popular maize herbicide atrazine have
resulted in tremendous production cost increases. Biotech herbicide
tolerant maize could lower costs by •15 per hectare.
* Weed control in rice can require up to 20 kilograms of herbicides per
hectare, at a cost of •200 per hectare. Biotech varieties could achieve
equivalent weed control with as little as one kilogram of active
ingredient while reducing costs by 50 per cent.
* The Sharka virus has led to the destruction of millions of European
stone fruit trees. Virus resistant trees developed in Austria could
prevent losses of over 160 million kilograms annually.
* Mediterranean tomato production is threatened by insect-spread viruses,
leading to broad use of insecticides. Virus-resistant tomatoes developed
in Italy could prevent viral infections and lead to significant reductions
in insecticide use.
The case studies, which were reviewed by plant biotechnology experts from
European academic and government institutions, are the most comprehensive
evaluation of the potential impact on European agriculture of crops
developed through biotechnology. The complete case studies are available
on the Internet at www.ncfap.org. Monsanto, Syngenta, BIO and EuropaBio
funded the project.
The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy is a private,
nonprofit, non-advocacy research organization based in Washington, D.C.
Originally established in 1984 at Resources for the Future, the center
became an independent organization in 1992. NCFAP researchers conduct
studies in four program areas: biotechnology, pesticides, U.S. farm and
food policy, and international trade and development.
For more information http://www.ncfap.org/europe.htm or email@example.com
Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods - Who Wins?
- Brenda Cassidy, Food Safety Network, Dec. 3, 2003,
The Consumers' Association of Canada (CAC) said today that the issue is
simple: stick a label on all genetically engineered (GE) foods and give
people the right to choose.
Public opinion polls, including the latest version from CAC, consistently
show strong public support for the concept. Many opposed to the use of new
technologies in food production point to the absence of mandatory labeling
as evidence of the grand conspiracy to foist GE foods down the
unsuspecting throats of a public held hostage by agri-food industry
giants. So why not just label it and move on?
Because the mandatory labeling that such groups demand, and that the
public, at least in response to questions carefully worded to engender the
desired response, supports, isn't about choice. It's inconsistent with
current food labeling policy in Canada, it implies substantial differences
between food products where none exists, and, if done honestly, it's
The push for mandatory labeling by some groups has nothing to do with
consumer choice. Such groups have long made clear that their goal is to
achieve a de facto ban of GE foods through ongoing campaigns to create
fear of unknown, theoretical health or environmental risks. Mandatory
labeling for GE foods should be used in cases where the resulting food
product differs from its counterpart produced by more traditional
production methods. That's already the law in Canada. To date, however, no
such products have been approved.
The GE foods and food ingredients currently on the market - mostly derived
from soybean, corn and canola crops - are nutritionally and
compositionally equivalent to their counterparts. They have the same fat,
cholesterol and carbohydrate content. They look, taste and cook exactly
the same way. Even the most sophisticated testing methods cannot
differentiate highly refined products such as oils and sugars produced
from GE crops from those from conventionally produced crops. For all
intents and purposes, they are not different. Forced labeling would be
misleading in its implication of difference where none exists.
Granted, there are those who would prefer to choose food based on its
production method. Organic foods are a primary example. Despite a dearth
of reliable evidence to indicate any advantages of organic foods in terms
of nutrition, quality or taste, a growing number of people choose to pay
premiums for organic foods because of their support for the process by
which such foods are produced.
But labeling foods based on a production method can be complex: it
requires segregation and traceability all along the food chain, from a
farmer's field to a grocer's shelf and every step in between.
Documentation must be prepared and available to verify the labeling claims
and prove the product's purity. That's one of the reasons that organic
foods cost more. And the added costs are borne by those to whom the
information is useful. Under a mandatory GE labeling regime, all food
ingredients would require similar tracking mechanisms, and all food costs
would increase. Such an increase may be insignificant for those to whom
production information is important, but places undue burden on the many
who are confident that all foods approved for the Canadian market are
The Canadian General Standards Board has worked with a broad stakeholder
group (including representatives from consumer organizations) to develop a
standard for the voluntary labeling of GE foods. Such a standard is
essential to ensure that the information provided to consumers is
consistent, accurate and not misleading. In development for more than two
years, the draft standard was recently approved and is expected to be
finalized soon. Voluntary labels will augment consumer choice in the
marketplace for those who want to buy foods based on their production
method without imposing the added costs of segregation, traceability and
verification on the populace as a whole.
Of note, the Consumers' Association of Canada was instrumental in the
development of that standard, actively participating to ensure that the
standard would meet consumer needs, but chose to pull out of the process
just before the final vote.
The question is not about whether to label or not: it's how to best
provide food-related information to consumers. In a 2000 market trial
conducted by the Food Safety Network and recently published in the British
Food Journal, consumers chose GE sweet corn over its traditionally
produced counterpart by a ratio of 3:2. Follow-up studies showed even
greater support for the use of GE technology in 2001 and 2002.
Many consumers cited the reduced use of pesticides in the production of
the GE sweet corn as the reason for their choice, although quality and
taste were also key concerns. But voluntarily labelling a whole food like
sweet corn is vastly different from a mandatory labelling regieme of an
ingredient in a processed food, especially when the label is designed to
alarm rather than inform. The biotechnology debate to date has involved
superficial stereotypes, caricatures and the mindless banter of pro versus
anti. It misses the point that providing food consumers are actually
interested in buying involves a series of trade-offs and considerations
that are specific to individual farms and locales.
- Brenda Cassidy is a research assistant with the Food Safety Network at
the University of Guelph
Consumers Choose Genetically Engineered Sweet Corn Over Conventional
- Food Safety Network Press Release, Dec. 3, 2003
Guelph, Ontario - According to research conducted by the University of
Guelph's Food Safety Network and published in the latest issue of the
British Food Journal, consumers preferred genetically engineered (GE)
sweet corn over conventional sweet corn in a 2000 market experiment. By
their own accounts, consumers in the study made choices based on taste and
quality, as well as reduced use of chemical pesticides in the production
of GE varieties. Despite widespread perceptions of consumer concerns
regarding the use of genetic engineering in food production, GE varieties
outsold conventional sweet corn by a margin of 3:2.
"The study shows that attitudes towards GE foods may depend on what
benefits they offer," said Dr. Douglas Powell, scientific director of the
Food Safety Network and lead researcher on the project. "In this case,
many customers at the farm market chose GE sweet corn because they
perceived advantages in the reduced use of chemical pesticides. Further
studies are now needed to test these findings with a broader, more diverse
In the farm-to-fork trial, sweet corn and potato varieties genetically
engineered for resistance to specific crop pests were grown side-by-side
with conventional varieties. Strict segregation protocols were maintained
throughout production and harvesting, and products were voluntarily
labeled to indicate whether they were GE or conventional varieties.
Customers in a local farm market were provided with information on the
production protocols, including pest control measures, that were required
to produce the different types of sweet corn. Researchers also analyzed
production data from an economic perspective to compare the costs of GE
vs. conventional production.
Unlike the conventional sweet corn tested in the trial, GE varieties
required neither insecticide nor fungicide applications. Cool, wet weather
in the 2000 growing season resulted in heavy pest pressure, requiring
heavy applications of pesticides on conventional varieties, which also
suffered more pest damage than GE varieties, despite the control measures.
The study indicated that, from an economic perspective, financial benefits
may be realized by growers choosing GE varieties in years of medium to
high pest pressure. Given the very specific and limited nature of the
trial (one farm during one season), no conclusions can be drawn on whether
the effects are scale-dependent.
The Food Safety Network (FSN) at the University of Guelph provides
research, commentary, policy evaluation and public information on food
safety issues from farm-to-fork. Food safety information can be obtained
by contacting FSN at 1-866-503-7638 or firstname.lastname@example.org , or through the
FSN websites at www.foodsafetynetwork.ca and www.eatwelleatsafe.ca
GM Sugar Beet 'Far More Environmentally Friendly'
- Andy Coghlan, New Scientist, Dec. 3, 2003
Modified sugar beet is far more environmentally friendly than conventional
beet. So concludes a controversial new analysis that is the first to
measure the wider impact of such crops, including their contribution to
global warming, damage to the ozone layer and toxicity to aquatic life.
"Overall, herbicide-resistant GM beet was 15 to 50 per cent better for the
environment, depending on what impact was being measured," says Richard
Phipps of the School of Agriculture at the University of Reading in
Phipps and colleague Richard Bennett say the benefits arise mainly because
farmers spray much less weedkiller and pesticide onto GM beet, less often.
Thus saving a lot of tractor fuel and reducing the impact on global
warming, for example.
The findings contradict the recently completed "farm-scale evaluations" in
the UK, the largest trials done to compare the effects of GM and
conventional crop systems on farmland wildlife. In these, GM beet and
oilseed rape turned out to be worse than non-GM counterparts. Maize with
GM resistance to a particular weedkiller did better than non-GM maize, but
the result may become a moot point as the EU is soon to ban the use of
that weedkiller on conventional maize.
In Phipps's and Bennett's analysis, they gathered data from published
literature, farmers and real field experiments on GM and conventional
beet. They measured various parameters prescribed in an internationally
accredited standard, including the energy used in making the weedkiller,
and the amount of diesel used by tractors spraying crops. The analysis
also catalogues all physical resources consumed and the impact of any
Phipps says their experimental approach, which they call "life-cycle
analysis", could easily be used to test the environmental impact of other
farming systems. "There's absolutely no reason why the same methodology
couldn't be applied to organic or no-till systems of agriculture."
He argues the analysis is more holistic, and gives a broader picture than
the farm-scale evaluations, which simply examined effects on wildlife.
"We're not having a pop at the farm-scale evaluations, which were
brilliant," he says. "We're simply saying they looked at only one
component of the system."
But Les Firbank, coordinator of the farm-scale evaluations, says that each
environmental impact may have a very different effect on the countryside.
Helping birds recover might be considered far more important than
conserving tractor fuel, for example. Phipps presented his preliminary
findings last week to the UK government's Advisory Committee on Releases
to the Environment.
GM-debate Methodology Works In The Real World
- Nature v.426, p. 495, Dec. 4, 2003
Sir - Scott Campbell and Ellen Townsend's critique (Nature 425, 559; 2003)
of the GM Nation? report makes a big claim: "The methodology was so badly
flawed that the data not only failed to support the authors' conclusions,
but undermined them". As a social scientist and a member of the steering
board for this debate on genetic modification (I write in a personal
capacity), I am unimpressed. They misrepresent the nature of the exercise
overall and their critique is flawed.
Campbell and Townsend approach the GM Nation? report
(http://www.gmnation.org) as if it were a narrow psychometric study,
rather than an account of a multifaceted process of public debate, taking
place in real time in a politically contentious field. Owing to this
misreading, their analysis is selective and misleading.
For example, in their analysis of data gathered from two of the primary
activities involved in this exercise -- the nationwide open debates, and
the more controlled narrow-but-deep (NBD) focus groups -- the authors miss
the central point of this twin-track approach. In addition to
understanding how far the views expressed by the NBD groups matched those
of the inevitably self-selecting participants in the open events, we also
wished to follow the evolving views of NBD participants as they acquired
more understanding of GM-related issues over a two-week period.
Insights from this exercise contributed towards the steering board's
judgements about the likely state of latent, as well as explicitly
expressed, public opinion -- and to our confidence in the robustness of
the key findings.
No one would claim that the GM debate was a flawless exercise, though,
like others involved, I regard it as time fruitfully spent. It will be and
should be evaluated rigorously, not least for lessons that can be learned
for the benefit of similar exercises in the future. The Campbell and
Townsend critique is not a helpful contribution in this regard.
Robin Grove-White. Institute for Environment, Philosophy and Public
Policy, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YW, UK
William L. Brown Award for Excellence in Genetic Resource Conservation
The William L. Brown Award recognizes the outstanding contributions of an
individual in the field of genetic resource conservation and use. It is
administered by the William L. Brown Center for Plant Genetic Resources at
the Missouri Botanical Garden and is made possible through a generous
endowment from the Sehgal Family Foundation, in cooperation with the
family of Dr. Brown.
All nomination materials and supporting letters must be received no later
than May 30, 2004. The name of the recipient will be announced in the fall
of 2004; an award ceremony will take place at the Missouri Botanical
Garden sometime thereafter. The recipient will receive a medal, an
honorarium of $10,000, and reimbursement for expenses associated with
travel to the award ceremony.
More information at
Columbia Economist Offers New Way to Compute Prizes for Agriculture
- EurekAlert.com, Nov 11, 2003 (via Plant Breeding News,
After many decades of economic growth, the single most important cause of
human mortality remains malnutrition. The World Health Organization
estimates that food deficits cause about 6 million deaths per year, or 14
percent of the total. Surprisingly, most people who die from hunger are
actually farmers not by choice, but by necessity. They are born in rural
areas, and have no other resources with which to earn a living. When a
farm family's production falls short of their own food needs, they fall
into a downward spiral of malnutrition, ill-health, and even lower
In the November issue of AgBioForum, William Masters, director of the
Earth Institute's Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development,
proposes a new way of fighting hunger: by giving cash prizes to innovators
who develop sustainable techniques that the world's poor can use to feed
Prizes have been used to solve many seemingly-intractable problems, from
an 18th-century prize for determining longitude at sea, to the 20th
century prizes for long-distance flight given to Charles Lindbergh and
Amelia Earhart. These prizes work well when governments or philanthropists
anticipate that a breakthrough would be valuable, but are unlikely to be
easily sold in the marketplace or obtained from university laboratories.
Professor Masters' approach proposes targeting any increase in the
productivity of low-income farmers, using recently-developed measurement
methods to compute what each innovation is really worth.
Professor Masters' proposal is motivated by the magnitude and nature of
global hunger. Because the poorest people are farmers, one of the most
effective tools in the historical fight against malnutrition has been
agricultural research, adapting seed varieties and production techniques
to local needs. This type of research consistently pays for itself, often
many times over but the gains are spread over millions of very poor
beneficiaries, so the costs of research can't be recovered locally, either
by private-sector innovators through product sales, or by local
governments through taxes.
"This mechanism offers a way for philanthropists and foreign-aid donors to
pay directly for demonstrated research achievement," says Professor
Masters. "We know that people want to pay for good research. This offers a
way to find which research is worth funding, using verifiable data from
field experiments and farm surveys."
Right now, research achievements are rewarded in one of two main ways. The
oldest approach is through universities and public laboratories, paid for
by government grants or philanthropy but these are difficult to steer
towards high-priority targets. To make researchers more responsive to
people's needs, governments offer them intellectual property rights over
their innovations but these have value only when a technology's users can
be made to pay for it. Professor Masters' proposal is intended to help
fill the gap between these two methods, to reward innovations that are not
now being rewarded through either kind of funding mechanism.
Although it would take some time for new research to generate results on
the ground, Masters believes that offering prizes for research results
would have an immediate impact, by attracting attention to the fruits of
R&D. He said, "I have worked for ten years in West Africa on this issue,
and I know dozens of agricultural technologies that are out there right
now saving lives. No one rewards these innovators. Prizes would help them
spread their ideas to more people, and to develop them further."
"Some of the best innovations come from individuals, often working in
non-profits and NGOs others come from people in universities and public
laboratories, and some come from private companies like Monsanto. No one
has a monopoly on discovery," said Masters. "This proposal is about
rewarding innovation, wherever it comes from."
The Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development (CGSD) was
established in July 2002 to research and craft solutions for the pressing
international development problems of our time. CGSD manages the social
sciences activities of the Earth Institute, such as economics, education,
and urban growth. Its hallmark approach involves interdisciplinary
collaborations with natural scientists at the Earth Institute, operating
on the underlying principle that because development problems cross
disciplines - from the environment to disaster preparedness to public
health to economic planning - so must the solutions.
The article is: William A. Masters (2003), "Research Prizes: A Mechanism
to Reward Agricultural Innovation in Low-Income Regions" AgBioForum 6(1&2,
The journal is published at the University of Missouri; more information
is available on-line from: http://www.agbioforum.missouri.edu/
More information on Professor Masters' work is available from:
Save CGIAR From Dying
- Ashok B Sharma Financial Express (India), Nov 10, 2003
The inter-governmental research body in agriculture, the Consultative
Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) along with its 16
'Future Harvest' centres are facing financial crisis. This is no good
The CGAIR system is supported by 46 countries (24 developing countries and
22 industrialised countries), four private foundations and 12 regional and
international organisations which provides finance, technical suuport and
strategic direction. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation
(FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank are its
co-sponsors. But despite this membership and co-sponsorship, the global
research orgainsation in agriculture is facing problems in funding
research which are meant for public good. It is now scouting for funds
According to reports CGIAR member contributed $ 337 million to the
research budget in 2001 which was an increase of more than 40 per cent
since the early 1990s. But this amount was not enough for the huge
research programme which the CGIAR has on its agenda. The CGIAR's
statement admits the fact. It says "funding for high priority CGIAR
research has expanded from the pre-renewal low of $ 220 to $ 240 million
to an estimated $ 335 to $ 340 million." If the requirement for research
in 1998 was $ 340 million, it is clear that the funds needed for research
should increase in 2001 and 2003 when there is a more urgent need to
depoly technology and research to save the growing number of hungry mouths
of the world.
The state of affairs becomes clear from the 1997-98 report of an
international panel of experts led by secretary-general of the United
Nations Conference of Environment and Development and chairman of the
Earth Council, Maurice Strong. The panel report concluded "the investment
in the CGIAR has been the single most effective use of official
development assistance (ODA), bar none. There can be no long-term agenda
for eradicating poverty, ending hunger and ensuring sustainable food
security without the CGIAR." Now with the ODA assistance on decline, the
CGIAR is finding difficult to adequately fund its research venture.
The CGIAR has no other go. It has to modify its mission statement if it
has to get funds from the multinationals. The CGIAR's initial mission
statement for the third decade (1991-99) clearly stated that it would work
in close partnership with the national research systems. It said "through
international research and related activities, and in partnership with
national research systems, to contribute to sustainable improvements in
the productivity of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in developing
countries in ways that enhance nutrition and well-being, especially of
low-income people." This statement was further modified in February 1995
for good to include "to contribute, through its research, to promoting
sustainable agriculture for food security in the developing countries."
But the latest version of the CGIAR's mission statement formulated in
October 1998 completely ignored the key role of the national agricultural
research system in different developing countries which are responsible
for ushering in Green Revolution and ensuring food security. The latest
version of the mission statement says "to contribute to food security and
poverty eradication in developing countries through research, partnership,
capacity building, and policy support, promoting sustainable agricultural
development based on environmentally sound management of natural
resources." - There is no specific mention of national agricultural
It is time for CGIAR to look which way it is going. CGIAR which had been
instrumental in ushering in Green Revolution in 1970s in many developing
countries in cooperation with the national agricultural reearch systems is
now prepared to part with its old friends, just for the sake of help from
Of course CGIAR needs adequate funds for such a gigantic research work.
ODA assistance is on decline. The member countries should therefore, come
to the rescue of CGIAR. It is a sad state of affairs that the World Bank
and IFAD which are its co-sponsors have failed to come to its rescue. Why
is it so? Does the World Bank finds difficulty in assisting CGIAR? CGIAR
has the ability to generate resources through its researches and pay back
loans. In fact it has been generating resources through research.
It is time for CGIAR to be upgraded to the status of an UN system so that
it can draw adequate help from the Untited Nations funds. This can help to
some extent. This course is better than to slip into the laps of the
multinationals. It would be able to maintain its noble mission for public
good. CGIAR has now become heavily dependant on Syngenta Foundation,
Rockfeller Foundation, Novartis Foundation, Bill Gates Foundation and many
other corporate sources for funding. But corporate funds do not come
without any tags. CGIAR should be careful if it has to maintain its
character of an international public research body of repute.
Environmentalism or Individualism?
- Robert James Bidinotto, Full essay at http://bidinotto.journalspace.com
"I have precious little sympathy for the selfish propriety of civilized
man, and if a war of races should occur between the wild beasts and Lord
Man, I would be tempted to sympathize with the bears." --John Muir,
co-founder, the Sierra Club
Every culture and its institutions are the living embodiments of certain
dominant ideas. At its birth, America's basic premises were part and
parcel of the glorious historical period that was rightly called "the
To define environmentalism is to damn it, which is why many movement
spokesmen go to considerable public lengths to cover the naked
implications of their core premises with fig leaves of respectability and
moderation. One way they do it is to clothe their endless scare campaigns
in the ill-fitting garb of science.
Their tactics always follow a familiar pattern. First, declarations of
some new ecological "crisis," based upon the flimsiest of evidence and
perversions of the scientific method. Next, mathematical projections of
catastrophic consequences stemming from the new danger, extrapolated from
ludicrous worst-case scenarios. Finally, the claim that "we must do
something immediately," because the predicted consequences--though not
provable--are just too horrible to contemplate. ....
But we don't live in a mythical Eden. We live on a planet where the
struggle to survive is an implacable fact of nature. And those of us who
do wish to survive--and thrive--can no longer afford to remain on the
moral defensive. We can no longer afford to remain agnostic and mute about
the philosophical issues at the root of the attacks on our lives and
livelihoods. We can't expect to rally public support against the
environmentalists if we fail to challenge, openly and unapologetically,
the moral assumptions underlying their efforts.
No, a moral assault must be met head-on--with a moral response. To clarify
the public debate, we must do two things. First, we must begin to
understand and uphold the moral rightness of the human use of nature.
Second, we must begin to understand and uphold our own moral right to do
our work, and to profit from it.
So far, the critics of modernity have been winning the public relations
battle. But there's nothing inevitable about that. I don't believe that
the public is fundamentally predisposed against a rational view of Man and
nature. They're merely confused by arguments that pit the alleged moral
claims of nature against the moral claims of human nature.
But defenders of Man have one huge advantage over their adversaries. The
anti-human premises of environmentalism clash with every person's life,
well-being, happiness, and--perhaps above all--his self-esteem.
As a case in point, science writer Jeremy Burgess, himself an
environmentalist, wondered aloud: "Is it just me, or does everyone else
feel guilty for being alive too? ...Eventually, and probably soon, we
shall all be reduced to creeping about in disgrace, nervous of our
This, then, is the emotional reward of environmentalism: a metaphysical
And how could it be otherwise? If untouched nature is the ideal, then in
logic our lives, interests, well-being, and pleasures must be sacrificed
to the "greater" interests of our surroundings. And if they aren't--if our
selfish, life-serving acts impinge on the "ideal" in any way, as they
must--then we will come to feel guilty about being alive.
But no one is born spitting into his own face. A metaphysical inferiority
complex has to be acquired. It clashes with everything in the human
spirit: the desires to learn, to grow, to do, to succeed, to be happy.
It's time that we reject the environmentalists' degrading view of human
nature, and go on the moral offensive.
It's time that we, as human beings, assert our right to exist as our
It's time that we stop apologizing for our every footprint, for our every
fence, for our every meal.
It's time that we stop regarding our homes as morally inferior to the
trees they came from, or our children's needs as less morally important
It's time that we recapture the Enlightenment legacy, and build upon the
philosophical work begun so nobly by America's Founders--those heroic
achievers who "exalted Reason and worshipped at the altar of Liberty."
It's time that we define and defend a new vision: an inspiring
individualist vision of human potential, in which each human being is
honored as an end in himself, with reason as his guide to action, and his
own life, well-being, and happiness as his ultimate reward.
Robert James Bidinotto is an award-winning writer and lecturer who reports
on cultural and political issues from the philosophic perspective of
Read this excellent essay in complete at http://bidinotto.journalspace.com